Alumni News Editor: Marianne Wolff, M.D.
Alumni News Writer: Peter Wortsman
From Student to
Surgeon to University Trustee,
A Columbia Journey
BY PETER WORTSMAN
|Kenneth A. Forde’59
“Race,” says Kenneth A. Forde’59, the retired José M. Ferrer Professor of Surgery at P&S, citing his great-grandmother, “is something you run…and win.” In the course of his 40-year marathon sprint as a member of the Department of Surgery, for much of which time he was the only African-American on the medical school faculty, Dr. Forde rose to the highest ranks of his field of gastrointestinal and colorectal surgery, helping to launch diagnostic and surgical endoscopy as an academic discipline and educating a generation of leaders along the way. Barely pausing to catch his breath following his official retirement in 2005, he took up a new torch two years later as a member of the Columbia University Board of Trustees.
Dr. Forde looked back on his long career and forward to the future of his calling and the University in an interview over lunch at the Donald F. Tapley Faculty Club in September 2007.
“Go Get Him Surgeons!”
“It was Shakespeare who inspired me to pursue surgery,” he says, only half tongue-in-cheek. Born in New York City to immigrant parents from Barbados, who sent him back to the Caribbean island, then a colony of Great Britain, for his primary and secondary schooling, he was bathed in the words of the bard. Memorizing “Macbeth” at St. George’s Church Boys School in Barbados, he heeded Duncan’s call: “So well thy words become thee as thy wounds;/ They smack of honour both. Go get him surgeons.” (The oratory was not lost on Dr. Forde, who is famed for keeping surgical residents on their toes with Shakespeare soliloquies and colleagues and alumni on the edge of their seats with his eloquence.) Honor would indeed come his way, but not without insidious wounds.
Returning to the States to pursue higher education, he earned a B.S. cum laude at City College of New York, while holding down two jobs, including a night stint as an orderly at New York Hospital. At CCNY he got his first taste of teaching as an assistant in biology. Fueled by the confidence instilled by his family and by the example of an ophthalmologist cousin in Canada, he was determined to pursue the study of medicine. A black clergyman, teacher, and family friend counseled him “to be realistic” about his limited possibilities as a man of color. Forget about medicine, he was told; plan on becoming a teacher. He listened politely and redoubled his resolve. “I never made much of discouragement, I just worked.” The same clergyman later gave him a doctor’s bag with a card inside that said: “This is so you don’t turn back.”
But racism reared its ugly head in the OR at New York Hospital, where well-intentioned nurses had arranged for the young pre-med student moonlighting as an orderly to observe an operation. The illustrious surgeon took one look at his complexion and sent him out of the operating room. The pain of the memory is still evident these many years later in a downcast look and a catch in his throat. It takes a moment for the words to return. “But I learned early on that you have to know how not to accept denial of privilege, or to get caught up in confrontation or blame, but find a way to get around it and overcome it.” Overcome it he did, time and again. “I lived to return to Cornell as a visiting professor!” he laughs.
Yet for all his hard work and proven academic excellence, his premedical adviser at City College discouraged him from applying to top level schools. “Of course, once I got into P&S,” he adds, “I became the darling of the City College faculty, who had only the occasional student accepted there in those years.”
Anatomy, Abscesses, and Other Thrills
“It was a very different Columbia that accepted him into the Class of 1959,” John T. Herbert II’73, former senior associate dean at Harlem Hospital, a former student, and now colleague and friend, recalled in a book of salutes prepared on the occasion of Dr. Forde’s retirement. “Very few obviously black Americans had the opportunity to apply, the nerve to compete, or the ability to succeed, but Ken had (and still has) all three.”
|“I learned early on that you
have to know how not to accept
denial of privilege, or to get
caught up in confrontation
or blame, but find a way to get
around it and overcome it.”
The only African-American in his class, Dr. Forde preferred to focus on the thrill of learning. In anatomy lab, he relished the instruction of a hand surgeon who came by once a week, bringing real hands-on knowledge and a whiff of the OR. “Fantastic! Fantastic! Fantastic!” Dr. Forde beams, the thrill still fresh as if it were yesterday. A subsequent surgical rotation fired his blood: “I remember the first abscess I incised and drained. That was a great thing. It’s a good sign if you get excited by incisions and taking out stitches, as I’ve always told my students and residents.”
In the Department of Surgery, he found a role model and mentor in David V. Habif’39. “I admired him, not only for his amazing technical ability, but also for his ability to get involved in his patients’ lives, to guide them, and teach them.” This pedagogical commitment profoundly impressed the young medical student. “Dr. Habif was teaching all the time, in the operating room, even at the scrub sink, wherever you saw him he was teaching. And he seemed a happy man.” Following his example, Dr. Forde made teaching central to his own surgical mission: “I see surgery in a broader sphere. It’s more than taking out a polyp that may or may not be cancerous. It’s teaching the patient how he can adjust and accept and exploit and not be limited by challenges to his health. I’m obsessed by the idea of educating patients.”
It was the physical as well as the innovative problem-solving aspect of surgery that excited Dr. Forde. “I liked tinkering, I liked manipulating things, I liked seeing results.”
|Classmates Allan Rosenfield and Ken Forde in 2006
As a fourth-year student he did exceptionally well on a surgical rotation at St. Luke’s Hospital and was encouraged by the surgical house staff to apply for an internship. But once again, a question of race — not the kind you run, but the kind that tries to run you to the ground — emerged as a factor. “‘Ken, everybody knows you’ve done a fantastic job here, and I’m giving you an A in the rotation,’” said the faculty member in charge of students, “‘but you know we’ve never had a black man on the house staff at this institution.’” And when Dr. Forde, nevertheless, showed up for the patient work-up session at which internship applicants were appraised, the same professor simply dismissed him: “‘I think we know you well enough, Ken, so you don’t have to stay. Goodbye!’” The memory once again triggers a catch in the throat: “Talk about humiliation!”
But again, he swallowed the pain, or rather reinvested it in fortitude, and calmly forged ahead. Seeking a mixed internship to enrich both his surgical skills and his grasp of medical principles, he applied to and was accepted at the prestigious First (Columbia) Division at Bellevue Hospital. His rotation on Medicine was under the direction of Nobel Laureate Dickinson W. Richards’23, whom he remembers as “a very kind, thoughtful, and helpful man.” Upon his successful completion of the program, Dr. Richards gave him an autographed copy of his medical essays as a gift.
Dr. Forde subsequently pursued a combined residency in surgery — two years on the Columbia Division at Bellevue and two years at Presbyterian Hospital.
At Presbyterian, he scrubbed in under such luminaries as the great breast surgeon Dr. Cushman D. Haagensen. When one patient balked at the idea of a black surgeon working her up for surgery, Dr. Haagensen tartly replied: “He is a member of my team, and either you will be seen and examined by him or you can leave.” She left, but Dr. Haagensen held his ground.
Following two years of military service, as assistant chief of the surgical service at the 98th General (U.S. Army) Hospital in Neubrucke/Nahe in Germany, Dr. Forde returned to Columbia P&S as an instructor in surgery and began his climb in the faculty ranks. His hospital appointments included positions at St. Vincent’s, Bellevue, Delafield, Presbyterian, and Harlem. At Harlem he became assistant director of surgery.
|It was the physical as well as the innovative problem-solving aspect
of surgery that excited Dr. Forde.
“I liked tinkering, I liked manipulating
things, I liked seeing results.”
At Columbia-Presbyterian, he came under the influence of Arthur B. Voorhees’46, whose discovery that synthetic tubes grafted into the dog’s heart to bridge arterial gaps underwent the same endothelialization of the lumen as natural blood vessels, revolutionized the field of vascular surgery. In addition to setting a sterling example in his technical perfection in the OR and meticulous record keeping, it was Dr. Voorhees who first encouraged Dr. Forde to enter the then fledgling field of flexible endoscopy, the examination of a structure, such as the stomach or intestinal tract, with a scope.
His mentor from medical school days, Dr. Habif, continued to play an important role in Dr. Forde’s professional development at Columbia, helping him hone his endoscopic technique. “He taught me, when we did rigid sigmoidoscopy, to position the patient and the instrument so that the endoscope falls in. Never think conceptually of pushing it, think of letting the bowel receive the instrument.” Sound advice from a technical standpoint, it was also a profound lesson in humanity. “Dr. Habif was always thinking first and foremost of the patient — not how much I, the surgeon, can do, but how much accommodation can exist between these complicated arrangements to the comfort of the patient.”
Dr. Forde would later make this kind of “accommodation” one of his guiding principles in the OR and the endoscopy suite. At each procedure he challenged himself to find the “configuration or maneuver that would allow the bowel to surrender and accept the scope.” Foremost among the many “Fordeisms” known to generations of surgical residents at P&S is his famous line, “Accept the scope.” His long roster of devoted patients, many of whom still seek out his wise counsel in retirement, are proof of the quality of his care and the depth of his caring. Twice during the interview he excused himself to accept a phone call from a former patient and to offer advice.
To Dr. Forde, the patient comes first. Notwithstanding the pressures of his burgeoning practice, he always made sure to include an additional session for pre-procedural discussion to educate and allay fears. One of the first surgeons to recommend a routine colonoscopy, or scoping of the large intestine, he likened it to “driving through a tunnel” to permit the patient to visualize the procedure and, so, be more relaxed. Nurses invariably marveled at the minimal sedation required by his patients, many of whom chose to watch what he was doing on the monitor.
Scoping on the “Today Show”
Dr. Forde’s growing reputation as a meticulous and caring endoscopic surgeon came to the attention of the producers of the popular NBC news program “The Today Show.” Co-host Katie Couric, who had lost her husband to colon cancer, launched a three-part series to educate the public about the risks of the disease.
The second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States, colon cancer is, ironically, one of the most preventable if caught and treated early. The pre-cancerous polyps are detectible and can be excised in a routine colonoscopy. But the idea in the popular imagination of the colon as a dirty organ and the angst aroused by the procedure keep people from seeking out the life-saving screening.
Ms. Couric and Dr. Forde made television history when he performed a colonoscopy on her as the cameras rolled and she commented while watching him guide the scope on a monitor — thus demystifying the procedure for millions of Americans and resulting in a substantial increase in colon cancer screening.
The Academic Practitioner
|Kenneth A. Forde’59
An academic through and through, Dr. Forde always grounded his clinical practice in research. “I decided from the start that if I’m going to get anything out of what I was doing — I’m in a great academic medical center, after all — that I shouldn’t just do it, but at the same time demonstrate whether it is useful and teach others how to do it.” To that end he wrote a chapter for one of the earliest computer programs for surgical education. The co-author of more than 125 scientific papers as well as countless abstracts and editorials, Dr. Forde also produced a number of widely used educational videotapes on colonoscopy and other procedures.
He was a member of the research team that first recognized the increased prevalence of polyps in first-degree relatives of colon cancer patients and, consequently, strongly recommended screening of family members. He co-authored two particularly provocative editorials, one that urged colonoscopy as a necessary procedure and another that stressed the lack of adequate criteria for discounting the cancerous potential of polyps. And though these papers later proved to be prophetic, they were misinterpreted by some at the time as a surgeon’s attempt to push a procedure and tread on the professional turf of gastroenterologists. One of the few surgeon members of the New York Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy, whose membership is mostly gastroenterologists, he served as its president and, as such, helped bridge the disciplines.
Dr. Forde also pursued collaborative research with Dr. Bernard Weinstein and a young protégé in colorectal surgery, Dr. José Guillen, now at Memorial Sloan-Kettering and a professor of surgery at Cornell, examining the molecular markers for colon cancer, i.e. chemical substances released in the transformation from normal bowel to polyp and from polyp to cancer.
A Voice for Change
Early on in his career, Dr. Forde made it one of his educational missions to help open the gates of P&S to more qualified minority applicants. He served three terms on the P&S Admissions Committee over a span of three decades, helped screen candidates, and mentored many members of the Black and Latino Student Organization. And while he is heartened by an evolution of consciousness in the society at large and at the University, as well as a strong commitment by President Lee Bollinger and P&S Dean Lee Goldman to bring in more talented minorities, there are still, he points out, only a handful of minorities on the faculty. He is also “disappointed that there aren’t more of us in the basic sciences or in tenured positions. That’s something I think the University has to catch up with, for the benefit of us all.”
A former chief of the gastrointestinal surgery-endoscopy section of the general surgery service, among other administrative responsibilities he served for close to a decade as vice chairman for external affairs in the Department of Surgery.
|“I’ve gone from applicant to student,
to intern, to resident, to attending and professor, and now to trustee.”
He became full professor of clinical surgery in 1983 and in 1997 was named the José M. Ferrer’38 Professor of Clinical Surgery. Internationally renowned, he has held visiting professorships at universities throughout the United States and abroad and was the last visiting professor in the Department of Surgery at Pahlevi University in Shiraz, Iran, before the Shah was deposed.
Dr. Forde has been active outside the academy too. Committed to the importance of feasibility, safety, skill sharing, and the dissemination of knowledge in his field, he was one of the founders, and the second president, of the Society of American Gastrointestinal Endoscopic Surgeons (SAGES). He also served as co-editor-in-chief of the society’s journal, Surgical Endoscopy. In a booklet published in 1981 on the occasion of the society’s 20th anniversary, Dr. Forde was praised as “a vital force in the founding, the glue that held it together when it occasionally threatened to become uncoupled, and the force of wisdom and reason.”
In 1986 he was named president of the New York Surgical Society, the second oldest surgical society in the nation. He was the first African-American to hold that office. Dr. Forde was also a Governor of the American College of Surgeons and a founding member of the American Trauma Society.
A strong believer in institutional traditions, he served as president of the John Jones Surgical Society for surgical alumni of Presbyterian Hospital and was one of the most beloved and effective presidents of the P&S Alumni Association. As chairman of the alumni association’s Honors and Awards Committee he has for years officiated as orator-in-residence at graduation galas and award ceremonies. As co-chairman of his medical school class since graduation, he has rallied his classmates’ support. His ongoing devotion was recognized by a Columbia University Alumni Federation Medal and a Medal for Meritorious Service from the P&S Alumni Association
A Named Professorship and Other Encomia
Rx for Travel
The recipient of many honors, including the Townsend Harris Medal from the City College of New York and, from P&S, the Bohmfalk Award for Teaching, the Award for Humanism from the Arnold P. Gold Foundation, and the Alumni Gold Medal for Excellence in Clinical Medicine, Dr. Forde was accorded the crowning academic compliment in 1996 when an endowed professorship in colon and rectal surgery was established in his name at Columbia.
“What really touched me about this honor,” he says, “is that the initial interest and lead gift came not from a wealthy patron but from the Research Foundation of the American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgery,” many of whose younger members he helped shepherd on their academic careers. “That was overwhelmingly meaningful.” The same year he was named Practitioner of the Year by the Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center Society of Practitioners. In 2007 he was saluted as Alumnus of the Year by the Society of the Alumni of New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia.
Also last year the Columbia University Board of Trustees put its ultimate trust in him by inviting him to join the trustees. “I’ve gone from applicant to student, to intern, to resident, to attending and professor, and now to trustee,” Dr. Forde says. “I’m not trying to be falsely modest, but it is indeed reassuring that the leaders of this university think I have something to contribute to its direction. We have our warts, like every other institution, but we are a great school with a solid background, a fascinating history of involvement in the nation and around the globe.”
When asked to reflect on a Forde legacy, he speaks of his wife and life partner, Kay, his son, Trevor, and plucks out the photos of his two young granddaughters, with whom he plans to spend a lot more time. And then, with that inimitable twinkle in his eyes, he allows: “I hope that I have demonstrated my love for my fellow man by trying to be as informed as I could. But more than that, I hope I helped others. I have always thought that if I inspired even one person along the way it would make it all worthwhile.”
At that, his cell phone rings for another patient consultation.
Berlin, a City in
Search of Tomorrow
BY PETER WORTSMAN
The Brandenburg Gate
PHOTO CREDIT: PETER WORTSMAN
Down the block from Checkpoint Charlie, a line of
bricks runs like a scar along the blacktop where the Wall once loomed. The old Brandenburg Gate, the symbol of the city, is buffed and bustling with foot traffic. Futuristic glass towers prod the clouds. Europe’s open wound since the end of World War II, Berlin is healing and reeling. Disruption these days comes from construction sites. The reunited capital of a reunited Germany, the city is reinventing itself as a postmodern metropolis. But the past is still present.
I made eye contact with the most beautiful woman in the world, only she was stone-hearted and more than 4,000 years old. Nefertiti never blinked. Her elusive look is locked forever on the edge of a smile in a glass showcase, among other treasures of the 18th Dynasty Amarna period, at the Egyptian Museum, one of several world-class collections of art and antiquities on the Museum Island in the former eastern sector.
Medically minded travelers will want to make a beeline, as I did, to the Berlin Medical History Museum (http://www.bmm.charite.de) on the campus of the Charité, the city’s famous teaching hospital, just across the Alexander Canal from the brand new Hauptbahnhof. Reopened as a public museum in 1989, the core of the permanent exhibit comprises preparations from the collection of the great academic pathologist, medical anthropologist, public health expert and politician Rudolph Virchow (1821-1902). Virchow conceived of this “Ding-Bibliothek” (Thing-Library) as a vast inventory of every stage of every known disease of every organ in the body, intended as a reference for physicians and medical students and a lesson for the general public. Ten thousand of his original 23,000 specimens survive today. A temporary exhibit titled “Schmerz/Pain” featured, among other items, an 1899 memo from a scientist at Bayer, the company that successfully synthesized acetylsalicylic acid, first suggesting the catchy brand name of Aspirin for its soon-to-be famous pain reliever.
Elsewhere in town, at Dorotheenstrasse 96, I dropped in at a small museum devoted to the life’s work of another illustrious Charité scientist, Nobel laureate Robert Koch. It was in the reading room of this building that Koch first announced the discovery of the tubercle bacillus in 1882. Viewing is by reservation only. (Tel. 030/ 2093-4719).
Painful memories of another time endure. Not far from the Potsdamer Platz, one of the city’s central squares, the ruins of the bombed out prison of the infamous Gestapo have been preserved as an outdoor exhibition space, the “Topography of Terror.”
Nearby, the Jewish Museum Berlin, housed in a modern glass building designed by the American architect Daniel Liebeskind, looks back at the 2,000 years of German-Jewish history prior to the Holocaust. Just down the block from the Brandenburg Gate, the 2,711 concrete stelae comprising architect Peter Eisenman’s Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe demand sober meditation.
From the glass dome bulging like a prescient eye atop the renovated Reichstag Building, the resurrected seat of German government, I mused at sunset on the sprawling spectacle of Berlin, past and present, a city in search of tomorrow.
The elegant Savoy Berlin (email@example.com) offers well-appointed rooms at a reasonable price. For rail transit connections visit www.raileurope.com. For more information visit www.berlin-tourist-information.com.
Alumni Association Activities
Alumni Association president Jacqueline Bello’80 got things started at the Council Dinner on Sept. 19, 2007, by wishing “a hearty, robust fall welcome for the beginning of a school year for the students and a renewal of another year for the alumni.” After dinner, she introduced guest speaker Donald W. Landry’83, professor of medicine and interim chair of the Department of Medicine at P&S. His subject was “Embryonic Death and the Creation of Human Embryonic Stem Cells: from Postulate to Public Policy.” Dr. Landry elaborated in his remarks on what he described as a “sideline from my main work.” In his “day job” he works on the use of organic synthesis in the production of artificial enzymes and for drug discovery.
“I’m going to show you something,” he said, “that began as idle speculation one Sunday afternoon in 2001 at a time when the Bush administration was about to issue its stem cell policy.” Dr. Landry suggested a possible solution to enable ongoing stem cell research. He subsequently testified before the president’s Council on Bioethics.
Dr. Landry explained that many of the existent lines for stem cell research were contaminated with mouse viruses and that the development of new ones was necessary for medical research. “Research on non-human embryonic cells,” he pointed out, “is often not easily translated to human organisms.” And furthermore, “the possibility of new superior therapies with true human embryonic stem cells will always exist. So you can’t say, just because things are going on with adult stem cells that we shouldn’t have human embryonic stem cells.”
With vivid slides and ample data, he eloquently presented the current ethical argument and his thesis. Weighing “the imperative to always treat humans as subjects, not objects,” against the potential “relief to human suffering,” Dr. Landry called for “a third way.” Recognizing death as the common ground, “because the death of the human being subsumes the death of the human person,” he argued for “a new definition of death for the human organism at the embryonic stage of development.” Dr. Landry insisted that non-viable stem cells were ineluctably on their way to death and should, therefore, be considered for research purposes.
Nobel Laureate Signs Books
at Reception for New Students
|Dr. Eric Kandel, Anke Nolting, and George Violin’67
Nobel Laureate Dr. Eric Kandel and ophthalmic surgeon-entrepreneur-philanthropist George A. Violin’67 broke into broad smiles as the first notes of the famous zither theme from the film noir classic “The Third Man” sounded in the Donald F. Tapley Faculty Club on Sept. 5, 2007. Dr. Kandel and Dr. Violin’s father were both born in Vienna, the scene of the movie. The occasion was the reception for new P&S students. This year’s festivity had a special touch, thanks to the generosity of Dr. Violin, who bought copies of Dr. Kandel’s memoir, “In Search of Memory,” to be distributed to every member of the incoming class. “This is the second time in my life,” joked Dr. Violin, “that I’ve been across the way from a Nobel Prize winner. Harold Varmus’66 lived on the same floor in Bard Hall. I hope you enjoy the book as much as I did and I hope you enjoy your four years at P&S as much as I did.” Dr. Kandel graciously signed books and said to students: “I envy you. It’s hard to think of a place that takes students more seriously.” He saluted Andrew Frantz’55, dean of admissions, and Lisa Mellman’91 PSYCH, dean of students, both of whom were also in attendance, for selecting such a fine class and guiding them through.
Career Forum 2007
|Alumni Association president Jacqueline Bello’80 with students at
Career Forum 2007
On Oct. 17, 2007, 120 residents and second- and third-year medical students attended the buffet dinner and networking opportunity known as the annual career forum. After an energetic and welcoming introduction by Alumni Association president Jacqueline Bello’80, it was not a quiet evening. In fact, the high volume level at the Donald F. Tapley Faculty Club only emphasized the connections made, information shared, and interests sparked between residents and students. The chief residents in each specialty and many sub-specialties at CUMC and Weill Cornell Medical College were invited; each table sat a specialty or two. Students then either moved between tables or sat in the middle between two of their particular interests. Danielle Trief’10 was thrilled when she arrived to find both OB/GYN and ENT at the same table. “I knew some residents and have interest in both fields, so it was ideal to be able to speak with both.” Residents enjoyed the opportunity to interact with students. Dr. Kenneth Yu, chief resident in emergency medicine, explained, “Emergency medicine isn’t a required clerkship, so we appreciate as much exposure as we can get.”
Second-year students attended tables that matched their early ideas about their chosen field or inquired about research or shadowing opportunities. Third years asked more detailed questions, with their current clerkship experiences serving as their source of inspiration. In all cases, the evening addressed the priorities of each group in a low-pressure, engaging environment.
— Elizabeth Crouch’10
The Maine Event
As per tradition, Alumni Dean Dr. Anke Nolting hosted a Down East summer bash at her home in Lubec, Maine. The weekend-long affair, Aug. 18-19, 2007, brought resident and vacationing alumni, family, and friends together for rollicking conversation over locally fished and smoked lobster and trout paté, followed by Anke’s homecoming. On Sunday, everyone hiked over to Roosevelt Park on Campobello Island, in Canada, FDR’s vacation retreat, returning in time for cocktails and a breathtaking sunset over the Bay of Fundy.
|2008 Dates to Remember
Parents day for families of P&S students
Alumni reunion weekend
Class Day for Class of 2008
Steven Z. Miller’84 Student Clinician
Ceremony (transition ceremony for second-year
students beginning clinical year)
White Coat Ceremony for incoming first-year students
BY MARIANNE WOLFF'52
Class of 1949
One of the 2007 Lasker Awards was given to Albert Starr, who pioneered the first open heart surgery program at the University of Oregon in 1957. At its inception the program concentrated mainly on congenital pediatric heart defects, until 1958, when Lowell Edwards, an electrical engineer, approached Albert with the “pipe dream” of building an artificial heart. Their collaboration resulted in the production of mechanical heart valves. Since then, more than 175,000 people have received Starr-Edwards valves. Today, heart valve replacement is the second most common open cardiac procedure, and one of the most successful, in the United States.
Class of 1953
John H. Bryant and his wife, Nancy, spent time in Africa, working with orphans and vulnerable children. He also did some teaching at the Great Lakes University of Kisumu and went to Buenos Aires in August 2007 for a WHO conference on revitalizing primary health care.
Class of 1954
Anneliese L. Sitarz was honored at the National Library of Medicine in a 2005 exhibition titled “Challenging the Face of Medicine” and “Celebrating America’s Women Physicians.” A pediatric hematologist, Anneliese has been a member of the Children’s Cancer Group of the National Institutes of Health for 45 years and, during that period, has seen cancer survival in children rise from 1 percent to 80 percent. She has personally made contributions to the field that have contributed to these salutary numbers. She is a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Society of Clinical Oncology, the American Association of Cancer Research, and the International Society of Hematology. Having been associated with Babies Hospital (now Children’s Hospital of New York) for 50 years, Anneliese announced her retirement from practice as of July 2007; she is now professor emeritus of clinical pediatrics.
Class of 1962
Norbert Hirschhorn divides his time between London and Beirut. He is a consultant to the World Health Organization (and other institutions) on tobacco control . He is also a poet, having published his latest collection, “Sailing with the Pleiades,” in 2007. (The publisher is Main Street Rag Press; the Alumni Office has details). Norbert’s wife works at the American University in Beirut. The couple has five grandchildren. He comments that Beirut is a safer place to live than London!
Class of 1973
Edward Tabor, affiliated with the FDA until 2005, is currently executive director and head of regulatory affairs and medical writing for Quintiles, a global research company.
Class of 1977
Michael P. Fanucchi was recruited from the Emory Winship Cancer Institute in Atlanta to serve as medical director and chief of medical oncology at St. Vincent’s Comprehensive Cancer Center and St. Vincent’s Hospital Manhattan, respectively. He will receive an academic appointment at New York Medical College in Valhalla, N.Y. Michael was previously with Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, Cornell University, and the Purdue Frederick Company in Norwalk, Conn. He is a member of the American Society for Cancer Research, American Society of Clinical Oncology, Connective Tissue Oncology Society, and International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer.
Class of 1980
James and Judy Goodrich with Lt. Gen. Ronald Coleman and his wife at the Marine Barracks
In May 2007, the UC Irvine Alumni Association named James T. Goodrich its 2007 Distinguished Alumnus, School of Biological Sciences. Jim also presented a colloquium at the Center for the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory at UC Irvine on “Craniopagus Twins: A neuroscience and neurobiological discussion of their separation from both a historic and a modern perspective.” In June 2007 Jim was the honored guest of the 8th and I Marine Barracks parade in Washington, D.C. Closer to home Jim is director of the Division of Pediatric Neurosurgery at the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore. He is professor of clinical neurological surgery, pediatrics, and plastic and reconstructive surgery at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. He also holds academic appointments in Russia and Italy. He has received many national and international awards.
Class of 1981
The winner of the 2007 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award (Innovation Category) in the metro New York area was Ron Cohen. Ron is president and CEO of ACORDA Therapeutics, a company “that is developing therapies to improve neurological function for people living with M.S., spinal cord injury and related conditions of the nervous system.” The Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award recognizes “outstanding entrepreneurs who are building and leading dynamic and growing businesses.”
Ophthalmologist Timothy L. Lee, based in Hawaii, is also a classically trained pianist. He performs in benefit concerts with proceeds going to Aloha Medical Missions to underserved communities in the Philippines, China, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Nepal, Cambodia, Indonesia, and the Big Island, among other sites. More than 200,000 patients have been treated by AMM’s professional volunteers, and 8,000 have had surgical procedures without charge. AMM also operates Hawaii’s only free medical and dental clinic. Tim is director of the Eye Care Center at Kauai Medical Center, located in Lihue, Hawaii.
Class of 1982
Frank P. Cammisa Jr. has been appointed to serve on the Scientific Advisory Board of Alphatec Holdings Inc. This medical device company specializes in products for the surgical treatment of spine disorders. Frank is chief of the spine service at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York and associate professor of orthopedic surgery at Weill Cornell Medical College.
Class of 1985
The Department of Biomedical Informatics at P&S has, as its new chairman, George Hripcsak, who also will hold the position of director of medical informatics services for New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia. George is professor of biomedical informatics and a founding member of the department; he had been interim chairman since March 2007. He received an M.S. in biostatistics from the Mailman School of Public Health in 2000.
Class of 1986
P. David Adelson was profiled in an article appearing in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review in September 2007. David is director of pediatric neurotrauma at Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh and holds the A. Leland Albright Endowed Chair in Pediatric Neurosurgery at the University of Pittsburgh. He has been at the university for 13 years and has an active clinical and laboratory research program, with an emphasis on preserving damaged brain, spinal cord, and peripheral nerve tissue to improve recovery. He is leading an NIH-funded multihospital, multimillion dollar clinical trial that utilizes hypothermia to treat traumatic brain injuries in children.
Christopher Cannon, associate professor of medicine at Harvard and associate physician in the Cardiovascular Division at Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston, has been named editor-in chief of Critical Pathways in Cardiology. He is already editor-in-chief of Cardiosource, the clinical education portal of the American College of Cardiology. Chris is also an investigator in the Thrombolysis in Myocardial Infarction Study Group.
Class of 1987
In January 2008 Jo Buyske assumed the position of
associate executive director of the American Board of Surgery. This represents one of the highest executive positions in American surgery to be occupied by a woman. It is noteworthy that in 2006 24 percent of certifications by the American Board of Surgery were awarded to women, and, for the same year, 42 percent of PGY 1 positions in surgery were filled by women, and this percentage is increasing at roughly 2 percent each year. Jo has been associate professor of clinical surgery at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and chief of surgery and director of minimally invasive surgery at Pennsylvania Presbyterian Medical Center in Philadelphia. In addition she is vice president of the Society of American Gastrointestinal Endoscopic Surgeons. Before taking her posts in Philadelphia, Jo held positions at Tufts University and the Lahey Clinic.
Mariellen Lane has been appointed associate clinical professor of pediatrics at P&S.
Class of 1990
Joshua E. Hyman, associate professor of clinical orthopedic surgery at P&S, became a member of the American Orthopedic Association and was inducted into the Orthopedic Honor Society. He just completed a term as president of the Presbyterian Hospital Alumni Association. He was incorrectly listed with the Class of 1980 in the Fall 2007 issue.
Class of 1996
Candice M. Moy and her husband, Justin, announced the arrival of a baby girl, Vanessa Tianhui Wang, in July 2007. She joins brother Jasper.
Mathew Williams has been named instructor in clinical surgery, Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery, and surgical director of cardiovascular transcatheter therapies at P&S.
See Class of 1999 for news about Sam Rhee.
Class of 1998
Michael Poshkus, medical director of Rhode Island’s Department of Corrections, received a recognition award from the National Health Service Corps’ SEARCH (Student Experiences and Rotations in Community Health) for his “dedication and excellence in precepting and teaching SEARCH students, his commitment to providing high quality primary health care services to incarcerated populations in Rhode Island, and his support of the National Health Service Corps’ mission to improve the health of the nation’s underserved.”
Class of 1999
|Shahid Aziz’99 and Sam Rhee’96
In May 2007, Shahid Aziz, associate professor of oral/maxillofacial/plastic surgery at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, led a team from UMDNJ to Bangladesh to treat children with cleft lip and palate. He took along Sam Rhee’96, assistant professor of plastic surgery at UMDNJ and craniofacial surgeon at UMDNJ University Hospital, and a team of anesthesiologists and an ER nurse from CUMC.
Vermont Building Honors
Theodore Bennett Robbins
By David V. Forrest’64
Around Labor Day each year my wife and I look forward to a visit to our “country cousins,” my classmate, Ted Robbins, and his wife, Caroline, at their beautiful 350-acre Highland cattle farm in North Pomfret, Vt., which, to this Manhattan psychiatrist, seems like an idyll in outer bucolia. One might have thought that all this time, as in Gray’s “Elegy,” they had been practicing the noiseless tenor of their ways far from the madding crowd, but Caroline has been running a first-rate publishing company on the farm premises, Trafalgar Square Books, which concentrates on books about training and riding horses, needlecrafts (knitting, crocheting and weaving), and mosaics.
Ted, between feeding the horses they board and supervising the farm staff and when not reminiscing about our years at P&S, humorously contrasts his quiet psychiatric practice at a nearby community mental health center with my own practice in this most manic of cities.
In 2007, our visit was preceded by the Aug. 30 dedication of the Theodore Bennett Robbins Building in nearby Springfield, Vt. (yes, the Springfield recently chosen as most qualified to be Homer Simpson’s hometown). Had our friends endowed a building, we wondered? It turned out to be far better than that. The board of the mental health group where Ted practices had unanimously decided to honor him by naming the group’s new 30,385-square-foot building after him for his 33 years of service, during which he was said to have been the spirit of the place. The new modern building has Ted’s name on a sign on the front of the building.
| Classmates Ted Robbins
and David Forrest
Afflicted with intractable down east New England modesty, Ted would never say how impressive an honor this is, but as a New Yorker I have no hesitation about bragging about my classmate. This new center for the private nonprofit Health Care and Rehabilitation Services of Southeastern Vermont consolidates offices that had been in six locations. The building will be used by up to 200 staff who will tend to the mental health of 2,500 patients a year. Its three wings combine outpatient community mental health, community rehabilitative treatment for long-term mental illness, and treatment for developmental disabilities.
The welcoming architectural design by BreadLoaf resembles a village, with two intersecting hallways called Main Street and Town Center to promote casual interaction among colleagues and peers. Solar panels provide 90 percent of the building’s heat; the building’s energy-efficient design will use only 48 percent of the energy used by similar structures built a decade ago. The bright interior has views that open up to the river and hills beyond. At the dedication, the habitually understated Ted received a standing ovation. According to a newspaper article about the event, Dr. Robbins “smiled at the enormity of the dedication.”
“It grows on you,” he said.
From the Classes
Class of 2008
By Melissa Laudano’08
Many alumni and students have reflected on how difficult it is to leave P&S because of the vast educational opportunities and strong personal connections that exist here. Forty-four members of the Class of 2008 have taken this to the next level, deciding to postpone graduation by at least one year. The intellectual pursuits that students have chosen for their “year off” from medical school reflect the diverse interests that exist within the P&S student body.
Inspired by the commitment to academic medicine and research exhibited by faculty, 32 students have chosen to perform either clinical or basic science research. Many have been awarded research fellowships by foundations such as the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation or the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Additionally, many students are pursuing a second degree via master’s programs in public health, business, or education. Of our dual-degree students some have chosen to remain at Columbia University, while others are completing programs elsewhere, such as Harvard and UC Berkeley.
Although many projects are intriguing, I will highlight three students and their work.
|Bonnie Koo at UCSF
Bonnie Koo is a Doris Duke Clinical Research Fellow doing dermatology research with a mentor at UCSF. In addition to her own clinical research she has been taking courses intended to teach young investigators about designing clinical research trials and research ethics. Bonnie is working with Dr. John Koo (no relation), who is director of the UCSF psoriasis treatment center. Her project includes measuring quality of life improvement in patients with moderate to severe psoriasis and research on a new occlusive dressing that may enhance psoriasis and eczema therapies. Bonnie is planning a career in dermatology and hopes her research in psoriasis will provide the foundation for starting a psoriasis center in an underserved population.
Meghan Sise is a Doris Duke Clinical Research Fellow doing a year of research at P&S with Jonathan Barasch’87 Ph.D./’88 M.D. in the Department of Medicine. She studies neutrophil gelatinase-associated lipocalin (NGAL), a biomarker of acute kidney injury. She and members of her lab recently completed a prospective study of more than 600 patients in the emergency room where they found that a single measurement of urinary NGAL at presentation could determine with excellent sensitivity and specificity which patients would ultimately be diagnosed with acute kidney injury. She recently presented the data at the AMA interim meeting poster session; the manuscript should be published later this year. She and Dr. Barasch are now collaborating with neonatology faculty to prove the hypothesis that NGAL is an early marker of sepsis and renal failure in very low birth weight infants in the neonatal intensive care unit. Although she misses clinical medicine during this time away from the wards, Meghan is incredibly grateful for the opportunity to work in such an exciting field and with such terrific mentors. Meghan has chosen to pursue internal medicine and hopes to continue research and teaching throughout her career.
Daniel Moon has enrolled in the first year of a two-year Harvard MBA program in general management. This program involves approximately 900 students divided into 10 sections. The diverse class includes bankers, consultants, lawyers, practicing physicians, teachers, and military personnel. Daniel decided to devote two years to this program because he feels that health care issues are continually becoming a greater source of opportunity and concern. Daniel says, “While maximizing patient care should be the ultimate focus, the finances and management of health care are in a state of flux, and I believe physicians need to be proactively involved in this transformation to a greater extent than ever before.” Harvard Business School is the home to many leaders in the area of health care policy and delivery models, and Daniel hopes to benefit from their knowledge and experience. Following in his father’s footsteps, Daniel is planning a career in orthopedic surgery. He hopes that the perspectives, skills, and connections that form while in business school will be useful throughout his entire medical career.